Friday, February 17, 2017

I started working on this article about John Mullan in May 2015. At the time, it was a shitty little piece written by someone else that had almost nothing about Mullan's explorations, his war record, or his businesses. I mean, NOTHING. It didn't mention his wife or children, and left the impression his only offspring was a bastard one-quarter Native child.

I did a fair amount of work from May 28 to July 8, and then set it aside. I needed to do more research. Then I hurt my back, and writing was hard for six weeks. By the time I turned my attention to the article again, it was January 17. I worked almost every day on it until February 15, when I finished.

Mullan is one of the most important explorers of Montana history. He's integral to the history of the state of Idaho, and was the largest land speculator in California at one time.
  • He brokered peace in the war between the Piegan Blackfeet and Salish (Flatheads).
  • He was the first white man to extensively explore Montana's Bitterroot Valley.
  • He discovered a little-known pass at the extreme head of the Little Blackfoot River, about 8 to 9 miles northwest of modern-day Basin, Montana. (These headwaters are near Thunderbolt Mountain, and the Loop Trail comes within 500 feet (150 m) of the Little Blackfoot.)
  • He discovered Hell Gate Pass, a little-known pass on the Ontario Creek Road/Telegraph Creek Road/Little Blackfoot Creek Road leading southwest from Elliston, Montana.
  • He discovered Mullan Pass, the first pass through the Rocky Mountains with an easy grade.
  • He was the first white man to extensively explore the Flathead Valley.
  • He participated in the Coeur d'Alene War, including the Battle of Four Lakes (where he led a successful cavalry charge) and the Battle of Spokane Plains.
  • He constructed the Mullan Road, the first road from eastern Montana to eastern Washington.
  • He drew the border of the Idaho Territory and Washington Territory. Mullan wanted Washington to include present-day Washington, the Idaho panhandle, and western Montana. He chose the name "Montana" to represent what is now southern Idaho, Wyoming, and eastern Montana. Although Congress threw out his map, the boundaries chosen for Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming were a direct result of Mullan's proposal. The state of Montana owes its name to Mullan.
  • He was the largest California land speculator in history. And he was the most nefarious: His land dealings were highly unethical, even illega. He got out of the business just in time; his partner later spent two years in a federal prison.
  • He successfully lobbied the federal government to reimburse the states of California, Nevada, and Oregon, and the Washington Territory, for hundreds of millions of dollars. Although Mullan was supposed to get 20 percent of this as a fee, all four entities broke the deal and stripped him of his income.
  • He led the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions from 1883 to 1887. He was the bureau's second commissioner, tripled the number of Catholic missions serving Native Americans, and got the federal government to quadruple its spending on Native American students.

He died penniless and ill in Washington, D.C. As a 33-year-old, he'd built the first road in Montana, Idaho, and Washington. As a 78-year-old, he watched the Wright Brothers fly an airplane around Fort Myer in Arlington County, Virginia.

The Mullan Road is today recognized as a National Historic Engineering Landmark.

No comments:

Post a Comment