Celebrating History-September 29, 1917

Autumn had just arrived and preparations for winter were in full swing in Havre 100 years ago. In war news, it was announced that all merchant vessels more than 2500 tons were being requisitioned for the war effort and prices for carrying government supplies was going to be regulated by the government, Montana was among the first contributing recruits for the cause, the world’s wheat crop made a slight gain, American chemists were speeding up production of toluene, an explosive substance found in coal gas, to use for high powered ammunition, and of course the women were not being left out, again being urged to conserve food supplies. In last week’s Havre Plaindealer, recipes for green tomatoes were listed including tomato catsup, chowchow, piccalilli and green tomato pickle. If you have never tried green tomato pickle, you are missing out on some delicious pickles! One thing not mentioned is fried green tomatoes. Most people think fried green tomatoes are a southern creation, due in large part to the popular book and movie by the same name. They are not. Fried green tomatoes are a Yankee invention, due to a short growing season and the dilemma of what to do with a bunch of green tomatoes.

In local news, industry was moving forward in Havre with this announcement in the September 29, 1917 issue of The Havre Plaindealer:

“Side Tracked for Baling To Be Located at Dodson
“The machinery of the Havre Flax Mills company is now being unloaded at the site for the company’s mill in the west end of town.
“Ben. F. Stevens of Dodson, one of the big cattlemen of Phillips county, joined the stockholders list last week and made his subscription conditional on receiving the first car of feed produced by the Flax Mills company.
“Another arrangement entered into was that of erecting on a siding on his land near Dodson the first “baling station” in Montana to be ready in July 1, 1918. The object of such a baling station is to save the cost of baling, to preserve the straw from the elements and to have the straw ready for shipment when needed by the mill.
“Such warehouse will be equipped with all possible labor saving devices and will be ready to receive and load 100 loads of straw in one day. It will be equally adaptable for the baling of hay, alfalfa or other straw.
“Within a year if labor and material be obtainable, there will be twenty such stations tributary to Havre, where flax straw can be kept to supply the Havre mill. Such arrangements will lessen the loss from car shortage as well as fire and insure flax growers a market.
“The cement work on the foundation for the 300 foot mill will start this week. Jonas Brolin is at present in Helena attending the state fair in the interest of all flax growing regions of the state. His exhibit is one that will be visited by thousands.”

The flax mill was located just west of the current water treatment plant and across the railroad tracks to the north.

Speaking of railroads, this announcement was in the Plaindealer:

“Thirty-two cars of silk, valued at $9,000,000 the most valuable freight ever shipped at any time on any railroad, is on its way from Tacoma to New York over the Gt. Northern and will pass through Havre. The silk is consigned from Yokohama to several New York buyers. The trains will make the trip to New York in 90 hours, considerably less time than the prevailing passenger schedule. There are no guards for the train except the usual crew.”

And then this happened:


“A great Northern train, loaded with silk from the port of Tacoma and eastbound, went into the ditch one-and-one-half miles west of Rudyard at 11 o’clock Wednesday forenoon, while running at the rate of 50 miles an hour. Seven cars of their contents valued at $1,750,000 were piled in a heap.
“No one was seriously injured. Conductor Merrill and Engineer Peganhart report the accident to have been caused by a broken rail.
“No. 1 and No. 4 were detoured by way of Great Falls while the wreckage was being cleared away. Not until 3 o’clock this morning was the line opened to through traffic.”

The women of Havre were excitedly preparing for the State W. C. T. U. Convention in Havre next week, as well as the following events in Havre, some of which were affected by the war:

“Style Show Well Attended.
“The style demonstration held at the Buttrey store on Wednesday evening was one of the big events of the week. It was well patronized by the ladies of the city and vicinity. All of the latest styles of the season were shown on living models and created no end of comment among the fair sex. Following the style show there was an informal reception during which there was entertainment in all branches of the store; delicious coffee and wafers were served in the grocery department.

“Dancing Party.
“Mr. and Mrs. O. P. Thayer gave a dancing party at the Lyceum hall last Friday evening in honor of Dorcey and Gordon Morris, who soon expect to be called to the colors. It was a very successful and enjoyable invitation affair and was attended by 60 couples who danced to delightful music until the hour of midnight.

“Farewell Party.
“Mrs. C. O. Syverud gave a party at her home on Third avenue in honor of Josephine and John Sanders who have entered the State University at Missoula. Eighteen friends of the young couple were present and enjoyed themselves in dancing until a late hour when delicious refreshments were served.

“Dance for Soldiers.
“The Social Sixty club gave a special dance at the Lyceum last evening in honor of the soldier boys who will start for the training camp the first of next month.

“Lyric Employees Entertained.
“Mr. Wheeler, owner of the New Lyric Theatre gave a dinner to his employees last Friday evening. The affair was in the nature of a farewell to C. W. Koerner, who was drawn for service. Mr. Koerner has been manager of the theatre for a long time. The banquet was served by “Ma” Pleasant and was declared a grand success by all.”

“Ma” Pleasant, a.k.a. the indominable “Ma Plaz”, whose real name was Alice Pleasant, was one of Havre’s African-American citizens. Last week she was in Helena for the state fair but no doubt enjoyed putting on a “big feed” for her friends in Havre. She owned the Home Restaurant located not too far away and was known for her fantastic food. Both sides of my family have wonderful Ma Plaz stories, she was quite the beloved character!

One of Havre's most beloved characters, Alice Pleasant, a.k.a. Ma Plaz.

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