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Uncovering the mystery of Pete Redcrow's spring

by MONTE TURNER
Mineral Independent | November 17, 2021 12:00 AM

Just west of the Corona Divide on Corona Road, or U.S. Forest Service Trail 1025, one will see an official sign that reads: REDCROW SPG. IN MEMORY OF PETE REDCROW.

It’s on a switch back and the road has been widened for vehicles to pull off. The first time that Gene Warren saw the spring with the USFS sign, he started thinking about it.

“We drove by it a few times before I said I better take a look at this as it’s got to have some history behind it,” he said. Warren is 85 and has lived in the Plains area for 60 years and discovered the Pete Redcrow Spring a few years ago.

“I crawled up in the brush and could see it hadn’t been maintained yet it had a Forest Service sign marking the location. But why did they dedicate this spring to Pete Redcrow?”

Warren posted a picture of the spring on Facebook looking to find out who he might have been.

Charles Cavill, who now resides in eastern Montana, responded and said that his dad worked for the Forest Service and Pete Redcrow worked for him. Redcrow always wanted to get his canteen water there when they worked in that area and the spring was named in his honor.

Cavill remembered himself that it was very good tasting water from when he was a logger, and it became popular with other lumberjacks.

But that is all Warren could find out about a man who had a freshwater spring named after him. He started making special trips to spruce up the area with pruning shears and rakes to remove the debris and moss out of the rocks where the water comes down.

He’s poured a lot of time and work into making this an attractive landmark again but hopes he could get some help in the spring to remove a trio of large logs that have fallen across the main face. But if not, this octogenarian will figure out how to do it himself.

“I’d like to make this look like what it most likely did when it was dedicated to Pete Redcrow,” Warren said.

There are stone steps that were made for easier access to the water that need some cleaning up, but they appear sturdy.

Netting with material inside to hold road water and dirt was placed there, probably by the USFS Warren believes. It is still doing its job, so it hasn’t been entirely neglected.

Erma Page is Warren’s companion when it comes to hunting blue grouse and huckleberries and it was on one of these excursions the spring was discovered.

The two of them grew up together on rural farms in Oklahoma and would walk to a one-room schoolhouse together with their brothers and sisters.

After Warren lost his wife in 2016, he went back to Oklahoma for a visit and his sister said that Erma’s husband had also recently passed away and he should go talk to her. The two reconnected in 2017 and now spend half of their time in Plains and the other half at her small cattle ranch in Foil, Oklahoma.

“But boy, does she ever love Montana,” he said with a grin.

As for Redcrow, finding information on a fella who was a Vietnam Veteran and was killed at the age of 34 is tough digging. Several senior retired employees with the USFS were unfamiliar with his name.

The archaeologist for Region 1 couldn’t find anything, but Laurence Kenmille, Veterans Representative and

Records Enrollment Manager for the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribe cracked the case.

"All I have is his death certificate which says he was shot twice in the back at his home in Plains, Montana, and that he worked for the U.S. Forest Service at the time of his death. Should be some articles in the Plains Horseman Paper regarding his death and background."

And there was. From the Plainsman dated Sept. 4, 1975, it reads that Undersheriff Bob Wolf said that Mrs. Redcrow said her husband was attempting to choke her and she called her son for help.

The 12-year-old boy appeared in the room and called for his stepfather to stop and shot when he failed to do so. Redcrow was a foreman for the Forest Service and had been working at the Plains Ranger Station for a number of years. A jury found the boy not guilty in his actions as self defense for his mother.

So, back to Gene Warren.

“If anyone would like to give me a hand, I’d appreciate it. I think it’s a point of interest that reminds people of the olden days.”

And now this spring has a little more history of the man it was dedicated to.