Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lost and Found, the Train Edition

One of the things I enjoy about researching the life of my great-grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs, is the way I always seem to find something interesting that I wasn't looking for, but can relate to my own life.

An example: yesterday I spent three hours going through a tiny fraction (2 1/2 boxes) of the 1,431-box collection of papers of Louis W. Hill at the Minnesota History Center library (and I thought the Riggs were savers!)

I was looking for papers relating to the Montana Cowboy Band, a band G. Oliver played in that was hired by Louis Hill to promote Montana in 1912.  Hill, at that time, had taken over from his father as president and board chairman of the Great Northern Railroad.  He also was instrumental in creating and developing Glacier National Park, which is celebrating its 100-year anniversary.

I managed to get through seven months of telegrams and letters before closing time and did find two things that related to G. Oliver.  One was a postcard of the Montana Cowboy Band, sent to Hill by the band's leader, Bill Houle, in December 1912 after the group returned from a trip to Chicago with some Blackfeet Indians from Glacier.  The other was a letter written to Hill by one of the tribe members, Fred Big Top, in which he describes their adventures in Chicago with the Cowboy Band.

The item that most amused me, though, had nothing to do with the Cowboy Band.  It was a telegram sent to Hill by his wife, Maud, in October 1912, when she and the children had been traveling between St. Paul and Seattle on the train without Hill:

"Mrs. Hill asks that you look on car A-22 for Louis (Jr.'s) new blue coat and hat which they could not locate."

This made me think of our family vacation last summer, when Steve, the kids and I traveled to Montana on the Empire Builder, the same train that the Hills took.  On our way back, Steve lost his Mini Cooper baseball cap.  Although he searched the train, and later called the Amtrak Chicago office when we returned to Minnesota, no one was able to locate it. 

I wonder if Louis Jr. ever found his? 

Sebastian, Steve, Elias and Louisa in Havre (Hill Co.) Montana, before we got on the train and Steve lost his Mini cap.


  1. I am sorry about the hat.
    Would you be interested in replacing it with a banjo? I was playing a church last night and a woman came up afterwards and asked me if I needed a banjo. Actually, she has two banjos. One was purchased at a pawn shop in Park Rapids. I know nothing about banjos but it may be too good a bargain. May be Steve Martin will play one tonite on the Oscar Show! Thanks for the Oscar tips! wjr

  2. Steve might look kind of funny with a banjo on his head, but it would be good to add another instrument to the Riggs family band.