Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fort Missoula, Montana

Before I write about our trip to the fort, I wish to mention some other details about the town of Missoula.  If you are fortunate to be here over the summer season, make sure to visit the farmer's markets.  There are two of them in town on Saturdays during the summer months.  I have never seen such a variety of vegetables, fruits and bakery goods before, especially not in one small town!  A popular fruit right now, besides sweet cherries, are huckleberries.  However, we found the huckleberries to be a bit expensive.
I did buy a small bag of them.  They are about the size of wild blueberries, which makes them quite small.  After checking out the farmer's market, and buying more vegetables and breads than we needed, we went on a walking tour of Missoula's downtown.  Our first stop was Saint Xavier Catholic Church, built in 1892.  Its style of Romanesque Revival provides large interior expanses suitable for murals.
The interior was decorated by an Italian native and Jesuit lay brother, Joseph Carignano.  The murals reminded me of the religious paintings we had seen in the interior of the Sistine Chapel.  An interpretive sign outside the church notes that the artist "employs many of the devices used by early Renaissance artists as feathery trees, oval female faces, classical costumes..".   Our next stop was Missoula Art Museum where we encountered much different artwork.  MAM fosters the creation of new art and contemporary artists.
I was immediately drawn to the wooden skeleton pictured above because his dangling arms made a clacking sound as they moved up and down   His right arm is grasping a very large M-16 rifle.  The wooden sculpture was created by Jay Schmidt.  The art museum's brochure notes that "this work addresses our contemporary global culture in a frontal assault".  I usually do not care for contemporary art, but I my thinking is changing! On Monday morning we climbed Summit Mountain, its trailhead is on the campus of Montana University.  Forestry students cut switchbacks on the mountain in the early 1900s.  A concrete M was placed in1968.  After seeing the M so often as we drove around Missoula it was great to finally climb up to that concrete monolith and sit on it.  The M is 125 feet long and 100 feet wide.
Fort Missoula was established in 1877 in reponse to the local townspeople who wanted protection from the Montana Indian Tribes. Construction of the open fort had just begun when the first skirmish with the non-treaty Nes Perce occurred. After a couple more encounters with the Native Americans they surrendered in the Bear Paw Mountains.  The 25th Infantry arrived at Fort Missoula in 1888.  The regiment was one of four made up of black soldiers and white officers after the Civil War.  In 1896 this regiment was organized to test the military potential of bicycles.  After a 1,900 mile bike trip from Missoula to St.Louis it was decided that bicycles could never replace horses.  The fort was used during World War ll as an Alien Detention Center for non military Italian seamen, and later for Japanese-American men.  It was decommissioned in 1947.  Only three of the original buildings of the fort remain.  Pictured below is the Quartermaster's storehouse where post supplies were kept.   It has been remodeled and now houses some of the museum's galleries.  A lot of the museum, indoors and outside, has nothing to do with the fort but with the history and material culture of the region around it.  

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