Anecdotes

Poems, Stories and Personal Accounts

Militare
Contributed by Melvin Beaudry
This story is taken from an edition of the Glasgow Courier. I believe the date was in August of 1931. The name in the article spelled, Militare should have been spelled Malaterre. The French names that were spelled phonetically, by some, were spelled vastly different of how they are spelled in French. There are many, many differences in the spelling of these French names. The bridge that was new at the time this article had been written has now been replaced by a newer bridge, the new bridge remains in the same place as its predecessor however. The article also contained two photographs. The caption beneath the picture of the bridge states. “New bridge across Milk River near Hinsdale at the site of an ancient Indian ford, which during pioneer days, was known as Parrent’s Crossing and later Deegan’s Crossing. One of northern Montana’s historic points.

Below the other photograph it says, “Charles Militaire of Hinsdale, one of northern Montana’s old timers, spent his boyhood wandering over the plains living off the buffalo herds. His father Louis Militaire, was an early day hunter and trapper and with other French-Canadian families came into the Milk River valley when the country was young.

These folks were descendants of the French and Scottish men that had came west to participate in the fur trade and the women of various Indian tribes. As they were not totally accepted by the full European blood people or the full-blood Indian people they grouped together forming an entire culture of their own, incorporating the traits and values of both races. They were named, by the French, “Metis” (may-tee). This is word, akin to the Spanish word “Mestizo”, both words find root in the Latin language. Both words mean in essence “to mix”. In their attempt to speak some of the French words by those not fluent in French resulted in mispronunciations. “Mitchiff” is another variation of “Metis” this was used primarily by the Algonquin tribes, one of these tribes being the Chippewa, when I was a child living in Glasgow this is what the people called themselves. The American and Canadians of European extraction other than French had the name “Halfbreed” for these folks. Something that is attributed to what Louis Riel is said to have written sums it up explicitly. “It is true our savage origin is humble, but it is meet that we honor our mothers as well as our fathers. Why should we concern ourselves about what degree of mixture we possess of European or Indian blood? If we have ever so little of either gratitude or filial love, should we not be proud to say, “We are Metis ?” I took a picture of the grave marker on Charles Malaterre’s grave in Glasgow Montana It says simply, “ Charles Militare 1854-1932”.

Charley Malaterre was my grandfather. He was born out on the prairie in what would later become the state of North Dakota the archives of the parish that these folks belonged to could be vastly different then where the actual event occurred, in other words where one was born, baptized, married etc. and where it was recorded could be hundreds of miles apart .(Melvin Beaudry)

Buffalo Calf - Once Interrupted Church Services Being Conducted In Camp of Red River Half Bloods Near Where New Bridge Crosses Milk River Near Hinsdale; Father Landre, Priest who Attended Spiritual Welfare of Wandering Band Accidentally Suffered Rough Treatment. (By F.B. Gillette)

Completion of the bridge across Milk River at the ancient Indian ford variously known as Deegan’s and Parrent’s crossing, two miles east of the present site of the town of Hinsdale, has stirred the recollection of old-timers, with the results that many yarns of early incidents in that neighborhood are being told. One of the most interesting of these is that of the manner in which a buffalo calf interrupted Sunday church services which were being participated in by a band of Red River half-bloods when in camp in the van of a great buffalo herd in this section sometime in the late sixties or early seventies, as related by Charley Militaire of Hinsdale, then a small boy who with his parents and brothers and sisters was a member of that party. The priest who figured in the incident was Father Landre, one of those devoted missionaries who had dedicated their lives to the salvation of the souls of the plains wanderers in the days of the buffalo range. Father Landre traveled with the groupe, which was composed of a large number of families of French-Canadian and Indian descendants, including the LaFromboise, the Beaudrys the Beaucrafts and other equally well known families in northern Montana pioneer days.
(the name Beaucraft is a misspelling of Rocheblave. The Rocheblaves were my grandmother, Isabelle Rocheblaves people. In later years Isabelle Rocheblave would marry my grandfather Charley Malaterre. For any one that has an interest in these people and has access to a computer, type in the name Rocheblave, fur trade or Rocheblave Kaskaskia Illinois or Rocheblave Metis in your search engine. I use google.com as a search engine. Melvin Beaudry)

It was the custom of the band to arrange their “Red River Carts” in a circle with the thills or shafts pointing inwards, the camp being set up in the protection of the security thus afforded. A communal patriarchal system of government prevailed and a far flung arrangement of guards and videttes under competent captains and subordinate officers assured a maximum of safety when in debatable territory.

It was upon a Sunday morning that Father Landre had called his flock to services which were being held in the center of the enclosure of carts. The camp, as usual was within convenient distant of a buffalo herd. At this particular season of the year the meat and hides of the cow buffaloes were most sought, hence many buffalo calves were orphaned.

The activities of the many members of this large camp had tramped out the grass in the immediate vicinity so that the dust was inches thick. While Father Landre was engaged in the most solemn and impressive part of the rites of the services of his church, a plume of dust rapidly approached the camp, attended by the swelling chorus of yapping barking and howling from the dozens of camp dogs, which proved to be in pursuit of a rapidly fleeing buffalo calf.

Enter, The Calf

The animal broke into the circle of carts full tilt with the dogs close behind in full cry, an avenue opening automatically through the crowd of worshippers to allow its passage. The good priest, no doubt feeling secure in the protection of the divine ritual in which he was engaged, resolutely stood his ground, with the result the charging calve upset him ignominiously and precipitately. His long black robes seemed to stir the ire of the animal, for it halted its flight before the dogs and the priest might rise, administered one vigorous bunt after another in rapid fire succession, varied with an occasional right and left hook from its immature horns.

The dust rose higher and higher, the dogs grew frantic in their hysteria, the worshipers became in turn, paralyzed with laughter, or alarmed for the welfare of their spiritual guide, but things happened so fast that no one was able to effect relief, although gratuitous advice was hurled right and left.

The father approached the parked Red River carts on all fours with the buffalo calf a close second and inflicting punishment every jump. In the meantime, the attention of some of the dogs was drawn to the strange creature in black progressing slowly ahead of the buffalo, and they started to worry the good father. Nervous, excitable and erratic ordinarily, but now in paroxysm of frenzy, the dogs suddenly shifted all attention from the buffalo to the priest. The calf at this instant spied an opening between the carts and broke through into the open and into the mist of camp followers who at once overwhelmed it by sheer force of numbers. (This way of life of wandering around after the buffalo was gone by the time my mother was born, but she told me that her father had said that at times they would meet very small group’s of different full blooded Indians that roamed the prairie. The group’s were so small that they didn’t even have horses or were not strong enough to keep them ! if they had come upon them so they would follow along as the Metis would certainly not let them starve, at times individuals were adopted into the Metis clan. Melvin Beaudry)

It was speedily dispatched by the keen knives of its captors. Meantime, an assault in force was being made by other members of the camp on the dogs that were beleaguering the good priest, who had sought a precarious shelter under a cart and was defending himself as best he could against the horde of canines. He was finally dragged forth by his rescuers, dusty, dirty, disheveled, clothing and robes torn, bruised in body and disturbed in spirit—but with the infectious jollity of the rollicking, volatile French-Canadian and Indian mixed bloods echoing in his ears, the humor of the episode smote him even though it was at his own expense, and his wrath was quickly appeased.

The camp at which this incident occurred was located not far from the ancient trace which led to the Milk River crossing where the new bridge now looms.

An Ancient Ford.

The earliest journals of the fur traders at Fort Union remarked upon this “road of the Milk River”. The river itself received its name from the commanders of the Lewis and Clark expedition on the upstream journey in 1804. Traditions, old even in those early days, indicated that this trace or trail had been used by native tribes from immemorial times. Following the disasters sustained in the “half-blood rebellions” in Canada in 1869-70 and 1885. under the ill-starred Louis Riel, there was a flight of great numbers of fugitives into the basin of the upper Missouri, many of whom halted to settle down along the Milk River in what is now Valley county.

They built up cabin camps in the bends of the streams where shelter and wood for fuel were available. The gravel bars and “riffles” which usually remained open through the most severe winters, were favored spots for winter quarters. One such ancient site was the crossing where now stands the new Milk River bridge. Some of the oldest Indian and half-blood survivors in north Montana report that tradition as far back as memory runneth assures the inquirer that such settlements existed at this point. It cannot be stated authoritatively that any individual, family or group asserted any claims to the lands immediately adjacent to the “crossing” prior to the coming of John Parrent or Parent, in the late eighteen sixties or early seventies. Parent was reported to have been born in France and married to a Metis woman.

He was a man of forceful character and by persuasions or otherwise induced the removal of most all of the other half-bloods thereby vesting a somewhat sketchy title in himself. Gradually the ford across Milk River came to be known as “Parrents Crossing”. (this man named John here, should have been Joseph Parent. Joseph Parent was married to Genevive Pelletier, the Pelletier name was also changed to Pilchie or Peltchy in this particular area. Albert Pilchie that at one time lived in Chinook Mt. being an example

( Mary Malaterre, a sister to my grandfather, Charley Malaterre, would later marry the son of this Joseph Parrent. The son was John, but they spelled the name in the French manner, “Jean”. These Parents were descendant to the man who had owned the original trading post at Saint Anthony Falls on the upper Mississippi. This place was renamed later as Saint Paul Minnesota. This Parrent at Saint Anthonys Falls was known as “Pig Eye” Parrent. Mary Malaterre had been been married prior to this marriage to William Dubreuil. They had been married in August of 1874 in the Sun River valley, northwest of what is now Great Falls. The name Dubreuil had its spelling changed to DeBray. Mary Malaterre (DeBray, Parent) is buried in Glasgow. Melvin Beaudry.

About the time of the Parrent’s advent, an incident occurred in which the principal actor was the famous Captain John J. Healy, an early sheriff of old Chouteau County in territorial days and one of the most colorful figures to pass across the pages of history in the northwest. Healy, a raw Irish immigrant, joined the, “Second United States Dragoons” at the age of 18 years, participating in the Mormon Campaign in Utah, and in Indian warfare in the southwest. He joined the gold rush in Idaho in 1861, was a miner in the Comstock lode, a placer miner in Virginia City in vigilante days and at last chance gulch. While there, he was elected to the first territorial legislature. Moving to Fort Benton he entered the fur trade, and when the great companies resented his independent invasion of their field, he set up a post of his own on the Sun River, organizing the, “Sun River Rangers” and as captain punishing the Blackfeet and clearing the range of hostiles. He invaded Canada, built a post and defied the great Hudson’s Bay Company at his “Fort Whoop Up”. Healy went to Alaska in 1886 and entered the mining game and steamboat transportation on the Alaskan rivers on a large scale. Healey was sheriff of Chouteau county when it embraced practically all of northeast Montana and served in this capacity for eight years.

Refugees From Canada

Large parties of Canadian Cree refugees were then present in the Milk River buffalo country, and in the settlement at the site of the new Milk River bridge near Hinsdale a considerable unauthorized trade in furs and wiskey had grown up. Two killings had occurred near this settlement, a half blood named Pilchie and an Indian called As-Kan, who were shot by wiskey traders when the intoxicated pair engaged in an argument with the traders.. The dwellers in the half-blood camp received smuggled articles, ammunition, guns and contraband from Canadian sources, the wiskey traders from Fort Benton evaded the few soldiers and United States marshals in the territory and set up a thriving trade with all comers, and the result was that large stocks of furs accumulated at such points as the settlement at this particular “crossing”.

Healy, with a single companion, one Jackson, a half blood interpreter, came into this territory to arrest the ringleaders, and such was his known courage that he was respected and feared by all that knew him. Healey and his companion entered the camp, made their errant known, and stated that they proposed to seize the hides and contraband and to arrest such persons that his warrant named. His intended victims were amazed at the apparent effrontery of so small a party in undertaking such a large order and promptly seized Healy, holding him captive while debating whether to shackle his hand with his own handcuffs or use the Hudson’s Bay horse hobbles of their own. They decided that he might have some unknown means of opening his own handcuffs, so they shackled him with the Hudson’s Bay hobbles which bore a lock and could only be opened by the owner.

Each breed family owned a pair of hobbles for the safe keeping of their favorite hunting horse, and Healy submitted in good nature to his captivity. They argued at great length and with considerable heat as to whether to kill Healy outright, but saner council that all would be punished severely and promptly if anything happened to Healy, so he was kept shackled for some days, well fed by his captors though only on “pemmican”, made of ground, dried buffalo meat, tallow and berries.

His captors could determine on no definite course of actions, and during their indecision and interminable debates, they were struck by the calm, unruffled demeanor of their prisoner. About this time it dawned upon them that Healy’s companion, Jackson who had not been imprisoned, had turned up missing. This set the camp agog with trepidation, for his disappearance could mean but one thing—that he had gone to seek aid for Healy.

A panic seized the settlement. Horses were gathered in, a hurried packing of hides, furs, valued personal effects and household equipment followed, and such as were able, sought safety in flight from the expected descent of the soldiers, which, occurred the second day after Jackson’s disappearance when a troop of cavalry arrived from Fort Buford.

Healy was released, furs and hides were seized, cabins were burned to the ground, hoarded supplies of “pemmican” and other supplies that had been gathered for the winter were destroyed by fire by the avenging soldiers, and the breeds and Indians who had not succeeded in making their escape were rendered destitute. The ring-leaders in the illicit traffic which had inspired Healy’s raid on the camp in the first place had made their escape over the border into Canada.

Deegan buys claim.

James Deegan, a native of Montreal, settled on the timbered point just east of the north approach to the present bridge in the late 1880’s, having bought out Parrents, squatters claim. Deegan had been a freighter from Winnipeg to the Cyprus hills. On one trip he had buried the dead Nez Perzes after the slaughter on Snake Creek, south of present day Chinook, in the war between General Miles and the US Army and Chief Joseph and his people. His party of four had to work at night to avoid roving war parties of Sioux and Assiniboines. Deegan became the first sheriff of Valley County upon its organization in 1893.

With the survey of the Milk River country, he purchased what was known as “Hyde Forrest Scrip” with which to secure title to land on which his home stood., but this srip was held to be fraudulently issued so that title was not confirmed until many years after Mr. Deegan had moved away.

(My mothers first cousin, Julia Grandchamp nee LaRoque would marry a son of James Deegan, his name was Tom Deegan. The mother of Julia was Louise (Rocheblave) LaRoque. Louise (Rocheblave) LaRoque was a sister to the wife of my grand father Charles Malaterre, my grand mother was named Isabelle (Rocheblave) Malaterre, she died in the early 1920’s. near Great Falls. James Deegan’s wife, the mother of Tom, was either Metis or full blood Indian. The Deegans had also came from Red River. Mary Jane (Brien) LaRoque was a sister in law to Julia (LaRoque) Deegan.

I am not telling all this in an attempt to confuse anyone, however perhaps it is some insight as to how many of these families, if not all were some how tied together, which was part of being in the Metis culture. My great grand father Louis Malaterre the father of Charles, is buried somewhere in the old cemetery at St. Peters mission. Louis Malaterre was a brother to the mother of the wife of Louis Riel. Louise Malaterre was also a brother to Jean Baptiste Malaterre, the only fatality in the battle between the Metis buffalo hunters and the Sioux at the Grand Coteau in July of 1851. (Melvin Beaudry)

The home of of John Stalcup, Great Northern railway agent at Hinsdale, now stands on this historical and traditional spot, and only the initiated observer can picture the teeming life that once revolved about this restricted area: only the student can conceive the romance, drama and tragedy that haunts the groves of giant cottonwoods that render the river front there, a place of rare beauty and quite.

Posted 6/15/2003