My wife Kerry and I took a day trip last week to Virginia City to do a little research and relax a bit. After lunch, we went in different directions and I wandered up Wallace Street where I found the Hangman’s Building. This is where the Virginia City Vigilance Committee hanged five men from a large beam in the then unfinished building on January 14, 1864.
“You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.” (Excerpt of a letter to the people of the United States by Congressman John Lewis. Published on the occasion of his death, July 30, 2020)
When most of us think of Montana connections with our nation’s Civil War I would bet that nothing much comes to mind. After all, we didn’t even become an organized territory until 1864. The Confederate Army didn’t come within a thousand miles of Montana and what Federal troops that were here were preoccupied with chasing the Lakota along the Yellowstone River and in the Powder River country. That’s not to say the Civil War didn’t touch Montana.
The first Montana Historian Magazine was published by Rey Advertising in 2010. Mike Rey, of Rey Advertising, is a student of history and wanted a way to connect with fans of Montana’s somewhat brief (in historical terms) but colorful past. He offered a way for specific businesses who have their own rich history, to share their stories in the magazine.
Montana Historian Magazine was available mainly in the Bozeman area at various grocery stores and racks throughout Gallatin County.
The stories that have been printed in Montana Historian are as diverse as the people who populate our great state. Yellowstone Park has been featured more than once, stories on the changes in transportation over the years, how vigilantes proved to be such prominent sculptors of where we are today, the growth of the recreation and tourism industries, and biographical stories of prominent names in Montana’s history have all colored the pages of the magazine.
In early 2020, Mike Rey of Rey Advertising, passed the reins of the magazine to O’Connell Publishing. John and Kerry O’Connell were honored to take over a publication which has grown to mean so much to followers of Montana history.
We cannot emphasize enough that we are not professional historians. We do take great pains to be sure what we say about Montana’s history is accurate and separate that history from our opinions.
The challenges that emerged from COVID in 2020 were numerous. We made the difficult decision to delay publication from its normal October/November timeframe to early in 2021. Then in 2021 we made the decision to keep it a digital magazine and to write almost all of the articles in-house.
We’ve been on the road more often doing research, creating photos and videos, and enjoying the wonderful state of Montana. We are also inviting guest columns for the website and if you are interested you can read more about this opportunity here.
We look forward to adding some longer and more deeply researched stories than we have in the past two years. What we’ve found has surprised even us and made us a bit uncomfortable. But that’s the way history is supposed to be, isn’t it?