People have been chronicling the doings of Montana for almost as long as Montana has been around. Montana became a territory in May, 1864, before that, it had been part of the Idaho Territory. By August of 1864, Montana had its own newspaper, the Montana Post. According to the Montana Historical Society, John Buchanan published four editions of the weekly paper before selling it to Daniel Tilton. Tilton hired Thomas Dimsdale to edit the paper. Under Dimsdale, the Post had its most successful run. During the vigilante era of 1863-64, Dimsdale’s editorials waxed poetic about the nobility of the vigilante cause. In 1866 Dimsdale produced a series of articles about the vigilantes, which he compiled and published as Montana’s first book, entitled The Vigilantes of Montana or Popular Justice in the Rocky Mountains. Dimsdale died of tuberculosis in September of 1866.
As population and power shifted from Virginia City to Helena, so did the Post. However, the Post lasted only a year in Helena before its building was destroyed in an 1869 fire of the business district. After that, the newspaper divided into several different publications. During its existence, the Post was a highly divisive publication. At the time, Montana was a heavily Democrat area. During the Civil War, men in the border states, angry at their homes for siding with the Union, had headed for the Montana gold rush. After the war, Confederate soldiers, having nothing to return to in the South, had also headed toward Montana. In the midst of this anger and disillusionment, the Montana Post preached pro-Unionism and radical Republicanism.
Although not Montana’s biggest newspaper, and probably not its best, the Montana Post was the territory’s first. It chronicles a unique era in the birth of Montana.
The Library of Congress has digital copies of the Post, they can be found under “related links” at chroniclingamerica.lo.gov/lccn/sn83025293
Tags: history, Virginia City, Helena, newspapers