Read Part 2 or to the beginning - - - The realities of life in the Centennial Valley were often hard. A newspaper article dated December 27, 1889, reports, "Mr. Cooley's cattle are in bad shape. They have had no hay for ten days. He has 300 tons of hay that he cannot reach. The snow is too deep, and the hay is fifteen miles from the stock. He has 250 tons of hay at the ranch and 500 head of cattle to feed. This will not last more than 1/3 of the winter. . ." And, as life will have it, animals weren't the only ones to suffer.
"The stormiest day I ever did see. . .This is hard country to live in. I don't think we will stay in it long." Lillian records on February 1st, 1890. On June 2nd she writes, "Commenced to hail yesterday at three and then rain, and we are in an awful plight. Found everything wet in my room and kitchen. . .Has rained steady all day till we have not a dry place in the whole house. We both cried we were so blue. . .Oh this is dreadful, and the corral is ankle deep in mud." And, on July 21st of the same summer the newspaper records, "A terrible cloud burst occurred on the Upper Ruby last Sunday evening which ruined 30 acres of oats, tore down houses, swept away mowing machines, carried out bridges. . .and tore things up in general; hail stones, as large as hen's eggs, fell."
If the weather didn't get you down, the mosquitoes might carry you off. On July 16, 1892, Lillian writes, "The mosquitoes were a terror tonight. The men could hardly milk." And on the 27th she says, "The mosquitoes are so bad the men don't always milk."
Dillion offered the nearest doctor - a long wagon ride followed by an often longer train ride. Babies born in the Centennial were often delivered by a midwife or a neighbor. They didn't always survive. On June 3rd of 1894, Lillian wrote, "Mrs. Burns' baby came 30th May. Buried Saturday 2nd. First funeral in a month." Accidents also occurred. On April 8, 1849, the newspaper reported, "We are pained to hear of S.K. Clark's little daughter getting kicked by a horse. Her skull was badly fractured. The latest report is that she will get well. She narrowly escaped death." But on July 31st, Lillian reported, "Sam Clark's little girl, Francis, was taken to Dillon to be buried last Saturday. She died after three operations."
Not every incident turned out tragic. A July 13, 1891, article reports, "Seven tramps passed through the valley one day last week, going to the railroad. . .As Frank Pederson was coming home one evening, not long ago, he saw two men leaving his place. He hurried and looked through the house and found they had taken all of his wearing apparel, so taking his six shooter he followed and soon overtook them. Pointing the revolver at them he demanded his clothes, and they disrobed even to his underwear and jogged along a best they could."
The people who lived - even thrived - during that era are the heros. Take Thelma Catherine Black. Born in the Centennial on April 3rd, 1899, Thelma was the first girl to graduate from the eighth grade in the valley. Not an easy feat in those days! This industrious young lady went on to attend Butte Business College. However, true to her roots, her real love was riding the open range on a half-wild horse. She was the picture-perfect Centennial Valley belle in her red velvet riding habit with her rawhide rope and .22 pistol by her side.
Then there was Sonny Bean. This favorite valley son was born Jan 5, 1896. The epitome of a frontier boy, Sonny traversed the rivers, lakes, and mountains barefoot in faded overalls. He learned to shoot, ride, and use his fists a little better than his peers. In spite of his 'rough' exterior, Sunny loved his fiddle. When he reached manhood, this 'frontier boy' set his sights on the 'valley belle'
Courtship, however, wasn't always easy. In fact, one July 4th found Sonny working on Clover Creek while his belle charmed folks in West Yellowstone. This wouldn't do. So, Sonny drove his team and buggy to West to pick up his sweetheart. From there they headed to Lakeview for the Independence Day celebration. After winning the foot race, the bucking horse contest, and the high jump, Sonny loaded his lady back into the buggy and returned her to West Yellowstone. He then headed back to Clover Creek. A fully day? You bet! Especially when you recognize it was about 250 miles in a buggy!
Few in these tough but idylic days realized how close change was to their doors, but rumors were starting to flow. On November 16, 1891, the following was reported, "There is a rumor afloat to the effect that the government is going to set aside the Henry Lake country to be used in connection with the National Park, as a reserve and to prevent fishing and hunting. If this be true, the settlers will all have to move away. We trust this is not true." Then, closer to home: on August 3, 1892, the newspaper reported, "We notice in the report of the State Irrigation convention held in Helena, Jan 7 and 8, 1892, that the lands on each side of the Red Rock river in this valley and the marshy lake lands are withdrawn from entry so as not to interfere with the storage of water when the government sees fit to make an appropriation to put in a dam. This will probably prevent this valley from ever settling up any more than it is at present. In fact, it will cause some of the old settlers to move nearer the mountains if they are to stay here." Continue to Part Four.