“Move to Montana” Advertisement

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Tuesday, February 10, 1914:  Nothing doing.

Kimball's Dairy Farmer Magazine (February 1, 1914)

Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (February 1, 1914)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll share a fun ad that encouraged families to homestead  to Montana.

Whew, it’s hard to believe that there still was “unbroken” land a hundred years ago that could be had for very little money. At least the people were able to get there in relative comfort via train, and didn’t need the covered wagons that were used in prior years.

19 Responses

  1. What a coincidence that you posted this when just an hour ago I began reading a book I just acquired, Montana Women Homesteaders: A Field of One’s Own.
    The process sounds cheap until you get into the details. I just read this paragraph:
    “Many, such as Ruth Giles Fischer, worked as teachers. As she explained in her memoir about homesteading in Chouteau County in 1917, her mother helped pay for her train ticket from Martinsville, Virginia, to Havre–nearly TWO HUNDRED dollars–but when she arrived, she had to build a house, fence her land, and put in crops. She hired labor: Breaking sod cost from five dollars to six dollars and fifty cents per acre, back setting four dollars per acre, and discing and seeding was one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre. Seed wheat was two dollars and fifty cents to three dollars and fifty cents per bushel. Building materials had to be hauled from over 30 miles away. ‘Luckily,’ she wrote, ‘I was teaching and could meet expenses.’ She started out earning sixty-five dollars per month, but after upgrading her Virginia Professional Teacher’s Certificate and attending regional summer school, she earned one hundred dollars and later one hundred and thirty-five dollars per month. She proved up in 1921.”

    At those prices, a month’s salary when she was first there wouldn’t even get ten acres plowed and seeded for her! I suspect she had savings or help from her family to supplement until her waves increased or she wouldn’t have been able to buy the lumber and pay for the shanty to be built!!

    The citation for the book:
    Carter, Sarah, ed. Montana Women Homesteader: A Field of One’s Own. Helena, MT: Farcountry Press, 2009. Quotation is from Introduction, Pg 29.

    • Fascinating. Advertisements rarely tell the whole story or give the full cost!

      • So true, Gallivanta! I spend a lot of time at my presentations giving real-life examples like this to counter the mythology of history. I absolutely adore finding out the nitty-gritty of daily life in primary documents and secondary sources like this kind of book. The contrast between propaganda/mythology/nostalgia and reality is often quite startling. But fascinating, too. Just more evidence that everyone has an agenda, and it was true even in the “good old days.”

        • They certainly did have an agenda. I often wonder what my ancestors ,who settled in New Zealand, thought about their new surroundings, compared to what they were told back in the United Kingdom. And back then I don’t suppose there were advertising standards to hold anyone accountable for misleading information.

          • Do you have any idea why your ancestors emigrated to New Zealand?

          • No I don’t really know. Most of them came out as assisted migrants from England and Scotland. They probably came out for a chance at a better life; a chance to own land/their own house. The men all had trade skills.

    • Thank you for sharing the wonderful information and citation. I’ll have to look for this book.

      I once visited the Badlands in South Dakota, and remember hearing similar stories about the difficulties there making farming a profitable enterprise. In the Badlands the land was horrible–and there was no way a 160 acre plot could produce enough to support a family.

  2. I’ve met the “new settlers” who moved to the Canadian Prairies in the 1940s and 50s and others who more recently exchanged their farms here in Scotland for far more acres in Manitoba. They were lured by land but often unprepared for the hardships and loneliness that went with it. It’s great to see the advert, thanks.

  3. We homesteaded in Alaska in the late 50′s-60′s.Can you believe that? Guess my dad needed to get farther away than Montanna! Still gonna write that homesteading book. Have lots of Mom’s letters. Soon I hope! LOL!

  4. Montana is close to S. Dakota where my GGGrandfather homesteaded. His youngest son’s daughter was a prominent person in SD politics. She was the first woman elected to the US Senate without first being appointed to that position.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gladys_Pyle

  5. The call of the west would’ve spoken to me…as it did even in these modern times having moved from Montreal, Quebec to central British Columbia and eventually settling in Calgary, Alberta about 3 hours north of the Montana border!
    Diana xo

  6. What a neat ad!

  7. I think there are still some wide open spaces in Wyoming. Fortunately you can get there by car.

  8. It reminds me of “Come to Texas” letters.

  9. They make it sound easy….”come on out with your money to the good life”…..but I know there was so much more to it.

  10. Humans seem always to have been lured by “grass is greener” promises–even the rocky soil in upstate New York was once promising to settlers who came from New England or Ireland or Scotland.

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