Ft Benton Montana
Ft Benton Montana is known as the birthplace of Montana. This beautiful town is a great place to visit and it has quite a History.
Episode 9 Ft Benton Montana, Old West Gunfights, A Mustachioed Madame and a Loyal Dog
Mon, 10/5 12:53PM • 7:05
fort benton, dog, shep, town, sheep herder, missouri river, man, madame, west, headed, river, train, dumont, today, vigil, old railroad station, gunfights, grand hotel, montana
Bob Bales 00:18
All right, welcome to another episode of the Traveling Fool. Today we’re going to talk about a town that was known as the bloodiest block in the West, along with some interesting characters, and a very loyal dog. So stay tuned. Fort Benton is known as the birthplace of Montana, but it’s also known as a bloodiest block in the West. Now, Fort Benton started out first trading post on the Missouri River. Pretty much everyone headed to the northwest passed through here, including Lewis and Clark. Built in 1847, Fort Benton served as a trading post for trappers, Native American tribes and those headed West. In 1881 the fort was abandoned and over the years, the clay and wooden structures fell into disrepair. In 1908, the last structure standing was the Northeast Bastion, and through a grant from the Montana Legislature, the structure was saved. The Fort is now being reconstructed to be as historically accurate as possible, and most of the Fort has been reconstructed and you can tour it today. On Front Street, between the cross streets of 15th and 16th Street, there were more than a dozen saloons, dance halls, gambling parlors, and brothels, and violence was often the order of the day. Many men were gunned down in barroom gunfights and street brawls. It was pretty common for people to stand on the balcony of the Grand Hotel and witness the nightly mayhem. In fact, there were so many gunfights and brawls that the area became known as the Bloodiest Block in the West. One of the more famous residents of the town was Eleanor Dumont, known as Madame Mustache due to the appearance of a dark line of hair on her upper lip. Madame Mustache as she was known, was a professional card dealer and gambler. Born Simone Jules to Creole parents, she later changed her name to Eleanor Dumont while working in San Francisco. In fact, she worked as a card dealer and madame in several Western towns. In 1867, she had moved to Fort Benton and set up a table in the area known as a Bloodiest Block in the West. She set up a table in a gambling house, dubbed The Jungle, during the summer of that same year while she was doing her job dealing cards, she spotted the steamboat Walter B Dance headed up the Missouri River, she had overheard that the boat was a smallpox carrier, so she stormed out of the saloon, ran to the river with two pistols and threatened the captain of the boat telling him he was not welcome there. Well, rather than fight this, mustachioed madam, he decided to head on down the river. Now back in December of 1936, there was a sheep herder that fell ill while tending his flock and was brought to the hospital in Fort Benton. A sheep dog was following the herder into town and soon he set up a vigil at the hospitals door. Some of the people that worked at the hospital, felt sorry for the dog and fed him during those few days before the man died. The herder family in the East requested that his body be sent back home. So the body was put on an eastbound train to his waiting relatives. As the gurney was rolled out onto the platform, the sheep dog appeared out of nowhere and watched as a casket was loaded into the baggage car. Attendants later recalled the dog whining as the door slammed shut, and the engine slowly started to pull away from the station. On that date, the dog later named Shep began a five and a half year vigil that was only broken by his death. Day after day, meeting for trains daily, Shep became a fixture on the platform. He eyed each passenger hoping to see his beloved master neither the heat of summer days nor the bitter Montana winter days prevented Shep from meeting the next train. Shep’s fame spread. People came from everywhere to see him, photograph him, tried to make friends and possibly even adopt him. All of the attention was somewhat unwelcome though after checking the train, he often quickly retired to get away from those who come to see him. Most people missed the point, Shep was a one man dog. The bond he had formed with the herder many years before was simply the most important thing in his life. Food, shelter and attention were now provided by the railroad employees. And that was all he really wanted except his masters return. Shep was an older dog when he came to the station house in Fort Benton. Throughout his vigil the long nights under the platform and the cold winters had taken their toll. Stiff legged and hard of hearing Shep failed to hear the old number 235 train that rolled into the station one cold winter morning. He turned to look when the engine was almost upon him, tried to move and get out of the way, but he slipped on the icy rails. Shep’s long vigil ended. On the 15th anniversary of Shep’s death, the community of Fort Benton organized a committee to produce a lasting memorial to their famous dog. The West’s most renowned sculptor, Bob Scriber, was contracted to create a heroic bronze statue of Shep. And today, that statue stands guard next to the old railroad station in a testament to man’s best friend. Today in Fort Benton, it’s a popular destination for people looking to get out on the weekends from Great Falls or just traveling through Central Montana. It’s a beautiful town. People come there from all over to go rafting and canoeing and kayaking on the Missouri River. You can visit the historic old Fort Benton and see what life might have been like back in the fur trading days of the Northwest. You can also walk down by the river and see the statue of Shep and learn all about this great historic town. If you decide you want to stay in Fort Benton for a weekend or even longer, then stay at the Grand Hotel. It’s been totally reconstructed and it’s a beautiful property, fine dining, great bar, and it sits right on the river and right across the street from what was once known as the “Bloodiest Block in the West. Well, thanks for joining us on this episode of the Traveling Fool. I hope you enjoyed it. Please hit the subscribe button, leave a review and we’ll see you next time.
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