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Cedar Creek history project makes headway

| May 11, 2022 1:00 AM

Slower than a herd of snails traveling through peanut butter. At the speed of a glacier. More sluggish than a one-legged dog on tranquilizers.

You get it. Something, or someone, takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

The Cedar Creek interpretive sign project initiated by the Mineral County Museum and Historical Society is one of those projects.

“This [sign] project has been years in the making, I would estimate 15 years,” said Debra Regan, who is a member of the MCMHS but was involved with this project long before she retired from the Forest Service.

“In 2020, prior to my retirement, my supervisor asked me to research interpretive sign companies in preparation for the district’s own need to install interpretive signs on the newly constructed Murphy Creek trail system. I learned a lot from that endeavor which fostered my interest in interpretation of our local resources and history,” she shares. The Cedar Creek sign project had been in the works so once the information was gathered, Regan already had a list of designers and fabricators."

“We felt that we needed to let people know of this history and that’s why we never gave up on the project. It faltered from time to time, but it was never canceled.” explained Sue McLees who was at the inception of the project. “Cedar Creek is what started Superior."

“There was nothing here except a way station, or a stage stop where people could spend the night. It was owned by Adolf Lozeau and was on the other side of the river but across from the mouth of Cedar Creek. This was from 1869 to 1875 and these signs will have all of the detailed information on them.”

Tom Castles moved home about five years ago, and being a history buff, he attended the monthly MCMHS meetings.

“Most of the written history of the early days of the Cedar Creek Gold Rush comes from newspaper articles. Namely the regional papers in Missoula, Deer Lodge and Helena. So just how accurate are those articles? Might be a little exaggerated. But some of these so-called facts can be cross checked by these different newspaper’s articles on the same subject,” he said.

“Treffle LaCasse first came up Cedar Creek in 1885 and died in 1953. I’m old enough that I got personal memories of him at LaCasse Camp, his last mining property. His daughter, Henrietta, wrote a history of her dad for a journalism class at the U of M in 1930. Much of my knowledge comes from that document”, shared Castles. Mary Murphy-Kellis was instrumental in the sign project as well. “Most of the information that I found for the signs came from the WPA (Works Project Administration also called the New Deal program) interviews found in the Museum office, and from Debbie Davis-Quitt's book ‘Gumboot Gamblers.' Her book is well researched and very informative. The WPA interviews were done shortly after the mines started closing and have some firsthand interesting stories by local citizens about different occasions and happenings during the time of the gold rush and thereafter.”

Regan returned to her alma mater for more investigation.

“District Cultural Resource and Archaeologist Specialist, Erika Scheuring, had valuable insights and knowledge from working with archaeologists. I figured all these specialists with masters and doctorates with experience would know their stuff. I felt the same about the other well-researched documents I used, such as Chris Merritt's doctoral thesis on the Chinese in Montana. I wanted the signs to be 'accurate' and professional so I really couldn't do enough research. The local history is just so exciting, it needs to be shared.”

Out of the blue came an offer from the Montana Ghost Town Preservation Society of $5,000 to the MCMHS for a project of their choosing. This generous donation has covered the first four interpretive signs which have been delivered and are ready for installation soon. The wish-list has a total of 13 signs they hope to have constructed and installed through private funding and grants.

“One final important item on the Cedar Creek signs,” said Regan. “MCMHS sign committee wouldn't have made any headway getting our sign information, photos, illustrations, etc. to the design company in Salt Lake City without the digital savvy help of Heather Miles from the Mineral County Library, the MSU Extension staff and Luke Regan of Luke Regan Design. The requirements of sending mega pixel stuff with special technical characteristics known only to computer whizzes, was beyond the know-how of the MCMHS sign committee. Many rallied to help without hesitation.”

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