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Letters reveal life on the Montana frontier



Gallatin History Museum lecture series continues


Historian and collector Ken Hamlin will share the stories of men and women on the Montana Territory frontier for this month’s Gallatin History Museum Monthly Speaker Series on Dec. 13 in the Museum of the Rockies Hager Auditorium.

The lecture, “Letters from the Montana Frontier: Separation, Men, Women, Families and Courtship,” begins at 6 p.m. and will include a number of stories inspired by Hamlin’s own personal collection of letters, photographs and memorabilia.

Hamlin attended Montana State University, receiving a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Fish and Wildlife Management and worked as a research wildlife biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for 35 years. Since his retirement, Hamlin has served on the Gallatin Historical Society Board of Directors and has contributed many articles for the Gallatin History Museum Quarterly magazine.

Of his many historical interests, Hamlin says he is particularly intrigued by postal history, and collects envelopes and their contents in order to understand what characters from the past were doing and thinking at a moment in time.

In his presentation, Hamlin will consider the effects of separation and delays in communication for a variety of families, from the men who left home to make their fortune on the frontier, to the wives, children, sweethearts and parents back home.

He will open with an excerpt from a letter written in French in 1810, the first letter sent in Montana, which left from the northwest corner of Gallatin County and was hand-carried down river to Saint Louis, Missouri. Other excerpts date from the time period between 1865 and 1889 when Montana was established as a territory.

Particular themes Hamlin plans to discuss include the Montana gold rush period and how families fared during the time, as well as courting by mail and some of the best and worst “pickup lines” of the time. “Some of them are pretty funny,” Hamlin said.

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