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By Colleen Kesterson
Pathfinder 

Author Describes Swan Valley Place Names

 

Steve Lamar

In 1964 a Baker's Chocolate tin was found on Mountaineer Peak (center) that contained a glass bottle that had the names of the crew that explored the Mission Mountains in 1922.

SWAN VALLEY - Nearly 50 people packed into the Swan Valley Museum Friday night to hear local author of "Swan Valley Place Names" Steve Lamar tell how some landmarks around the valley received their names. Lamar explained that many of the landmarks were named by the 1922 survey crew members who explored and later mapped which in now the Mission Mountains Wilderness. Events in residents' lives also became the names of the places where they happened.

Trapper and prospector Jim Condon's name is very familiar in the Swan Valley. He was in the valley in the late 1800s to early 1900s. According to Lamar, Condon was probably on a crew that surveyed trails because his name is so prominent.

"Surveyors usually named something for themselves. Names around the valley such as Sawyer, Woodward, and Piper were all surveyors in the valley," said Lamar.

The Northern Pacific Railroad in 1922 hired a survey crew which included United States Forest Service (USFS) employee Theodore Shoemaker. The railroad, which owned every other section in the Swan, wanted the Mission Mountains explored and photographed by famous photographer Asahel Curtis. The Northern Pacific thought that the Missions would be a draw for railroad travelers similar to Glacier National Park.

The crew named features which included Lace, Turquoise and Lake-of-the-Clouds lakes; Daughter of the Sun, Mountaineer and McDonald Peaks; Sunrise Glacier and Glacier Creek Falls. Shoemaker led groups into the Mission Mountains over the next five years culminating in a hand-drawn map that according to Lamar later proved to be accurate when converted to a modern topographical map.

According to Lamar's "Swan Valley Place Names," Curtis is credited with naming the Daughter of the Sun Mountain. It was given the name because it was the first point to receive the sun in the morning and the last to lose the sun in the evening. .

"I have to challenge that," said Lamar. "Even though it is a beautiful peak." Lamar told the Pathfinder that he had hiked to the mountain and that there are taller mountains to the west of the Daughter of the Sun.

"I have never seen the sun shine on the peak when it is going down," he said.

According to Lamar, there is a good story how Grizzly Lake got its name. In 1956 a crew of four including late local resident Herb Styler and a photographer from Missoula Thad Lowary were exploring a future trail system when they saw a Grizzly swimming in the lake and then sliding on its back in the snow nearby. Lowary decided to get a photo with his camera attached to a wooden tripod.

"He needed to get close as there were no zoom lenses then. The bear bluff charged Lowary who startled and kicked the tripod so the photo came out blurry," said Lamar.

Lamar added that Lowary made sure that the name Grizzly Lake was added to the map as he worked for the USFS as the Director of Recreation and Lands. In 1970, the USFS named a peak near Grizzly Lake for Lowary.

Loco Lake and Crazy Horse Creek in the Red Butte area were named by Cap Laird who built Lindberg Lake Lodge in 1928. Two horses which he bought on the tribal side of the Missions escaped and were trying to go back. The horses took the wrong trail and Laird thought he had them cornered but they jumped off a twelve-foot cliff and swam across the lake.

Lamar said, "Only one was captured causing Laird to name the creek and lake after the antics of the horses.

Goat Foot Pass near Spider Lake in the Missions was named by Bud Cheff Sr. in the 1930s. There is a rock slab that horses traveling the trail have trouble navigating. Cheff said that stock needed "goat feet" to get across the slab especially in the rain or snow.

In 1960 the USFS named a peak after Shoemaker. Lamar said the location is not correct on the USFS maps. Lamar said he asked the FS to put it right since it was named after their employee.

In 1964 a group was hiking on Mountaineer Peak. It was named for the Montana Mountaineers which Shoemaker helped found. They discovered a Baker's Chocolate tin with a glass bottle inside containing the names of the crew which explored the Missions in 1922.

Steve Lamar

Sunrise Glacier looking toward Daughter of the Sun Peak in the Mission Mountains Wilderness.

An attendee asked Lamar how the roads in the valley were named. Fire department member Dan Maloughney said it was in 1988 that Missoula County wanted the roads named to aid the fire department to find residences. Lamar remembered that the county told him that they didn't want any names with elk or grizzly in them, there were too many in the county.

"The Stones' kids [local residents] named their road Triceratops," said Lamar.

"I like Ufta Drive," said a resident who is a native of Sweden.

Another asked Lamar if he was going to write another place names book.

"I don't have enough additional information to write another book but I can add the information I have gathered to a reprint of the current book." Lamar said he didn't start out to write a book, he just gathered the information.

"Swan Valley Place Names" is available for purchase from Lamar, at the Swan Valley Museum, Swan Valley Connections and the Grizzly Claw in Seeley Lake.

 

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