By Robert Lucke
Did you know that the Marias River passes through Hill County? Or that Meriwether Lewis named the Sweet Grass Hills the Broken Mountains?
Much has been written about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and their travels through Montana up the Missouri River. But little has been done with Meriwether Lewis' two journeys in the Marias River County. A river that he named for a lady friend.
In conjunction with Cabin Fever, a one-day class will be held on Meriwether Lewis' travels on the river with emphasis on his two journeys there. The class will be held on Jan. 4 starting at 7 p.m. at Brockmann Center on the MSU-Northern campus.
John Maatta, Liberty County Extension Agent, will teach the class.
"There are 30 miles of the Marias River in Liberty County," Maatta said. "And from there the river goes into the southwest corner of Hill County and into Choteau County."
"I have always had an interest in the Lewis and Clark expedition," Maatta continued. "My wife tells me I was born 150 years too late."
Maatta is a part of the Marias Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Heritage Foundation. There are presently 20 active members and around 30 interested.
"People do not have to be from Liberty County to join the foundation," said Maatta. "We need Hill County people, too."
Regarding the Cabin Fever class, Maatta will be hitting many highlights of Lewis in the Marias area.
"I am going to be talking about the hardships the Corps of Discovery had to face. How they enjoyed the winter at the mouth of the Marias because they thought that the Marias could have been the Missouri. Corps members really enjoyed being there. It gave them the opportunity to fix their moccasins and do things they needed to do to continue on," Maatta said.
Even more interesting, according to Maatta, was that the Corps of Discovery did not even realize that the Marias River was even there. It was confusing there. Lewis took the trip up the Marias and stopped only when he determined he was going too far north. That was 60 miles up river from its mouth.
"Then in 1806, when coming back, Lewis and Clark split up and when Lewis got to Great Falls, he sent some of his men down the Missouri to wait at the mouth of the Marias and he and some men went north and camped at the Sheep Shed Flats," Maatta continued. "They saw the Sweet Grass Hills in the distance and named them the Broken Mountains. Then they traveled on to Camp Disappointment and had a run in with Blackfeet on the Two Medicine River. After the fight, they made a beeline back to the Missouri and met their party and got out of there in a hurry."
The workshop will search out of the journals of Lewis and Clark. Any and all mention of the Marias Country and Maatta will have slides showing the country to accompany the workshop.
For further information, contact John Maatta at (406) 759-5625.