|We drove yesterday for 6 hours to get to Deer Lodge, Montana. It was a very long day but had the greatest scenery along the way. We seemed to climb and climb the truck hauled the fifth wheel very well we were sure glad we had the chip put in and the extra fuel tank.
We stopped at a couple of rest stops along the way and saw lots of snow still on the mountains. It was a beautiful day but very cold and it seems to be windy here we don't know if that is normal or if it's just this time of year.
We're staying at Indian Creek Campground which is Coast. The campsite is right off the highway and very close to downtown Deer Lodge. Not much at the campsite other than your spot. It's very clean and well kept up.
Deer Lodge is on the National historic register. It is a very small town which consists of very old brick buildings and one main street. A devastating fire destroyed a large portion of the town in 1872. By the time the fire was finally under control 16 buildings had been destroyed.
The Flint Creek Range is to the west and the Boulder Mountains to east are the closest mountain ranges, both approximately five miles from the city. Where our campsite is we see both of these mountains and I can say they still have lots of snow on top. I think that is why it gets very cold still at night.
Beaverhead/Deer Lodge National Forest surrounds the city and is the largest national forest in Montana. It has some great hiking trails but right now it's a little cold to go too far.
We went to see the Old Montana Prison and the Montana Auto Museum today. They were both great a must to see. The Prison was built in 1871 and was constructed mostly by convict labor. The stories about the prison we found very interesting.
During the Depression of 1893 the territory of Montana was without funds to make improvements on the prison and was increasing becoming over crowded. So the Warden, Frank Conley instituted a program of convict labor for prison expansion.
By contracting inmates for construction projects throughout the state, Conley provided income to run the prison and alleviated the overcrowded conditions by housing inmates at the job sites. By contracting inmates for construction projects throughout the state, Conley provided income to run the prison. Prison crews built 500 miles of road at Flathead Lake, Macdonald Pass, most of the roads around Deer Lodge, and roads in other countries throughout the state. Inmates also built eleven buildings at Warm Springs (Montana State Hospital) and four buildings at Galen (Montana Tuberculosis Sanitarium). Conley leased or owned eleven ranches, operated by inmates. He also provided inmates to local farms and ranches. In 1916, 50% of all inmates worked and lived outside the prison walls. He sounded like a brillant man maybe some of his ideas should be used today.
They had some fasinating stories of the inmates this is one of them. Paul "Turkey Pete" Eitner was sentenced to life in prison for two murders in 1918. A model prisoner, he was assigned to tend the prison turkeys. As the years passed, reality slipped away from him. One day a man stopped to admire the turkeys, and Ritner sold the man the entire prison flock for 25 cents apiece. This ended Eitner's farming days, but marked the beginning of his new fantasy career as an 'entrepreneur and philanthropist.'
The prison administration humored Either and allowed him to have printed checks (Eitner Enterprises) from the prison print shop. He 'purchased' the prison with these fake checks and proceeded to 'operate' it. He 'paid' all the prison expenses and wrote checks to the guards for their salaries. Eitner Enterprises saved Brazil's coffee crop, sold pink alligators, purchased alfalfa seed from Poncho Villa, sold grasshopper legs to Fidel Castro and sold ships to the Navy.
When Turkey Pete died in 1967 at age 89, his cell was retired and converted into a barbershop. His funeral was the only one ever held with the walls of the prison.
In 1959 there was a riot at the prison. Jeery Myles and Lee Smart (youth prisoner who was Jeery's boyfriend) led twelve inmates in a riot, which left Deputy Warden Ted Rothe dead. They took eighteen prison employees and five stool pigeon inmates as hostages, soaked rags with flammable liquid and threatened to burn them alive. After 36 hours of mounting tension, Warden Floyd Powell implemented a daring rescue attempt. The National Guard fired a bazooka at the tower where the ringleaders were headquartered. You can still see the damage on the tower where the bazooka hit. Meanwhile, a team of men burst through the door in the west wall, crossed the yard, and entered the Cell House, freeing the hostages.
Myles and Smart were found dead of an apparent murder-suicide at the top of the tower. Although the riot focused attention on the over-crowded conditions at the prison, it was twenty years before the last prisoners were finally moved to the new prison which is now located just outside of Deer Lodge.
Brian and I just found everything there great it took us more than 3 1/2 hours to go around the prison. On our way out we stopped to talk with a man mowing the lawns and found out he was a trustee (prisoner) from the new prison. He mows quite a few places in the area which he has earned by being a model prisoner. He has been in prison for 15 years and is coming up for his first parolee hearing. He doesn't think he will get out then because the prison parolee board is very strict here and he said that most people don't get out early. He didn't tell us what he was in for but our understanding was he still had another 15 to serve. He said that most of the time he spends his time reading to try and keep up with everything going on.
After we left the prison we went to the Auto Museum which is actually part of the prison area. They had over 150 vintage vehicles ranging from 1886 to 1973. The restoration job on these vehicles were outstanding. We both found cars that were made in the year we were born. We noticed quite a few of the vehicles were owned by this one couple and when we inquired about it as we left were told that they are local people and they just like to restore old cars and he also bought the mill in town when they were talking about closing it because he didn't want to see people in this area out of work.
We are now sitting here watching a thunder and lightening show. Our power has gone out several times and you can see a number of people arriving in probably not wanting to drive in this weather. You can't even see the mountians for the dark clouds. So we are thinking were just going to sit here and do some reading and watch a bit of tv as long as the power stays on. Tomorrow we hope to go and see the museum in town as well as a few other things we noticed today and just didn't have time to do.
Hope your all doing great we miss you all.