Tuesday, May 3, 2011

U is for Utica, Montana

Dan and I were talking about the A to Z Challenge, I think I was on F.  I was trying to figure out what I would do for “U”.  Dan took out his trusty atlas and said I think there is a town called “Utica”.  He looked a number of times before he found it.  Utica wasn’t in the index but it was on the map.

We were talking to a friend about Utica and Mark said Charlie Russell painted  “In Without Knocking” in Utica.  The landmarks in that picture were actually from “Old Town Stanford.”   Stanford is somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 miles from Utica.

I turned to the computer and looked up Charlie Russell and his paintings.  I found two about Utica.  The first one was painted in 1907 and is titled “Quiet Day In Utica”. Charlie Russell called it “Tin Canning a Dog”.  According to the “C M Russell Auto Tour” booklet the characters in the background are Russel himself, Jake Hoover, Milly Ringgold from Yogo Town and the owner of the mercantile, Charles Lehman.

According to the story Charles Lehman opened a new store in Lewistown, Montana.  His sons asked Charlie to paint a picture for their Dad.  They were expecting a small watercolor when Charlie presented them with the finished oil.  The story goes that the boys made installments to pay for the picture.

The other picture “The Cowboy Camp During Roundup” was painted in 1886 and depicts the community roundups.  Sometimes there was as many as 500 cowboys working the roundup.  According to the stories they were quite a rowdy bunch.

We decided to take a road trip during my Easter break since neither of us had ever been to Utica.  Utica is another place in Montana that you have to be going to Utica to get to Utica.  Dan was telling his sister about our planned road trip.  Patsy said oh don’t go now wait until the fall when they have the “What the Hay festival”.

Yes I looked that up.  It’s now called “Montana Bail Trail”.  We are making plans to go see it. Check out the link the sculptures are terrific. http://russell.visitmt.com/listings/14381.HTM

I was excited about our trip.  It was about 150 miles from Billings, MT.  When we got to Utica there were a few of the original buildings still standing.  Several were part of the museum.  I think the museum is open during the summer.

I read a number of the signs that were posted for visitors.  The area had had a large snow storm a day or so before we got there.  One of my pictures shows an almost then and now picture.  The old building and farm equipment and to the right is a trailer and mobile home.

We also stopped in Stanford.  One of the residents told us that “Old Town Stanford” burned in 1968.  In the early 1900’s the residents had moved the town to where it now stands in order to be closer to the railroad.  From there we went to Lewistown and spent the night at the Yogo Inn – great service and a terrific restaurant.

Did you catch the reference to Jake Hoover? Yep he was the guy who sent the Yogo Saphire’s to Tiffany’s.  Well he was also the man who took CM Russell in and helped him get established.  Charlie was 16 when they met.

After we had been talking about the trip, Dan remembered where he had heard the name Utica - he had read about it in one of the books that Charlie Russell wrote.  One of the signs telling about Utica, Montana said that early settlers named it for Utica, NY where they were from.   

We rode the "Russell Trail" the day we took our road trip.


  1. How interesting! I'd never heard of Utica or Charlie Russell. It sounds as though you had an enjoyable trip:-)

  2. Yes it was really enjoyable. Charlie Russell is a popular artist out here in the west. His paintings tell the history of life in the 1880's. He was a gifted artist. I believe he died in 1826.

    I have been thinking about how to connect the history the kids study with some of his paintings. So they get a new way of understanding that era.

  3. It gets even better! You now have the beginnings of a new career I think, traveling in order to write. Again, I enjoyed all the parts, connecting up the people to the place, including your own experience. Fascinating how things happen, like the paintings.


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